Tigers roar back in ninth, 11th to beat Red Sox 13-12

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Alex Avila got barely a sliver of a 2-2 curveball that would have ended the game. On the next pitch, he got a whole lot more of another curve, hitting a walkoff homer to give the Tigers a 13-12 victory over the Red Sox and a three-game sweep in Detroit.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox’s worst-case scenario for the rebuilt bullpen came true: Alfredo Aceves blew a 10-7 lead when Miguel Cabrera hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and Mark Melancon surrendered the 12-10 lead in the 12th .

Aceves, who was named Boston’s closer after Andrew Bailey underwent thumb surgery, gave up hits to all three hitters he faced, though neither of the two singles were hit very hard. The second was handled by a diving Dustin Pedroia, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his glove in time to retire the runner at second.

Cabrera’s homer, though, was a no-doubter.

Melancon retired the first batter he faced before giving up singles to both Cabrera and Prince Fielder, with Fielder hitting a modest grounder right to where the third baseman would have been if the Red Sox hadn’t been shifted over. He came back to get Delmon Young to fly to center, but Avila ended it on one too many curves.

The Red Sox got stellar relief work from their other two pitchers. Vicente Padilla pitched four scoreless innings after Clay Buchholz gave up seven runs in his four innings of work. After the game was tied in the ninth, Franklin Morales came in and struck out three in two scoreless innings. It’s Aceves and Melancon who are supposed to be getting the most important outs, though, and after two appearances, Aceves has an infinite ERA, while Melancon is at 36.00.

The Tigers got five RBI from Cabrera in the game. He finished the series with eighth. Austin Jackson went 4-for-6 and is hitting .570. Avila’s homer was his second already.

The Red Sox wasted excellent offensive performances from surprise leadoff man Nick Punto (3-for-6 with 3 RBI) and Mike Aviles (3-for-5 with three RBI). Aviles, in particular, impressed. He took a high fastball from Max Scherzer into right-center for a two-run double in the second, singled in a run in the third, executed a flawless sac bunt and then aided the 11th-inning rally with a perfect hit-and-run single, advancing Cody Ross from first to third.

All that won’t mean a thing, though. The story tomorrow will be about how the rebuilt Red Sox bullpen is ill-equipped to handle late leads. The call for Daniel Bard to return to the pen will begin before he even makes his first start.

There is no need to lament the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie”

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Today in the New York Times Jay Caspian Kang writes about what he calls the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie.” About how there are few if any big baseball movies anymore. Movies which traffic in baseball-as-metaphor-for-America with Jimmy Stewart (or Kevin Costner)-types playing characters which seem to transcend time, elevate our emotions and rack up the dollars at the box office.

It’s a bit of meandering column, with just as much time spent on Kang’s seeming dissatisfaction with modern baseball and baseball telecasts as his dissatisfaction with baseball cinema, but he winds it up with this, which sums his argument up well enough:

Baseball’s cinematic vision of Middle America no longer means what it once did. The failing family enterprise and the old, forbearing white — or Negro Leagues — ballplayer now remind us of an extinct vision of the country and the growing distance between Middle America and the coasts. The attempts to update the archival, sun-kissed, Midwestern vision — whether on last year’s “Pitch,” the Fox TV show about a woman pitching in the majors, or “Million Dollar Arm,” the 2014 Disney movie in which Jon Hamm goes to India to convert cricket bowlers into pitchers — are canceled or bomb at the box office.

You won’t be surprised that I take a great deal of issue with all of this.

Mostly because it only talks about one specific kind of baseball movie being AWOL from cinemas: the broad works which appeal to the masses and which speak to both the past, present and future, often with a hazy nostalgia in which love of baseball and love of America are portrayed as one and the same.

It’s worth noting, though, that such films are extraordinarily rare. There was a brief time when such things existed and did well at the box office — the 1980s had “The Natural,” “Field of Dreams,” “Bull Durham” and “Major League” in a relatively short period of time — but that’s the exception, not the rule.

Baseball movies are almost always niche flicks. Biopics made of recently deceased stars like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Weird slices of life like “The Bad News Bears” or “The Sandlot.” Quirky comedies that are baseball offshoots of larger cinematic trends like “Little Big League,” which was just the latest in a series of “kids doing adult things” movies popular at the time. Or “Rookie of the Year” which is essentially baseball’s version of one of those body-switch movies that come and go. Or “Mr. Baseball” which was just a fish-out-of-water comedy like any other.

We still get those kinds of smaller baseball movies fairly often. They’re still pretty decent and still do pretty decently at the box office, even if they’re no one’s idea of a blockbuster.

“Moneyball” was done well and did well, not as a mass appeal movie, but as one of many business/Silicon Valley flicks that have popped over the past few years. “Sugar” was a great movie, but a small movie, exploring a culture about which most people aren’t aware and basically serving as a character study. “42” is just an updated (and much better) version of those old biopics of baseball stars. “Everybody Wants Some” may be the quintessential niche baseball movie in that it’s a story about characters which just happen to have a lot of baseball in their lives. “Bull Durham” was like that too, but it just came along at the right time to become a massive hit. As many have noted, baseball was more background than plot in that movie, even if the background was amazingly well done. I’d argue that most good baseball movies use baseball like that rather than put it squarely in the foreground.

There will likely always be baseball movies, but they will almost always be smaller ones, not large blockbusters or Oscar bait with an epic sweep. Most baseball movies are like baseball itself in that they lack a grand consensus. Baseball is not The National Pastime anymore — it’s just one of many forms of sports and entertainment available to the masses — so it follows that the movies which deal with it will likewise not have that massive cross-market appeal.

I think that’s a good thing. Smaller baseball movies more accurately reflect the sport’s place in the culture. To portray baseball as something larger than what it actually is opens the door to a lot of artistic and cultural dishonesty and runs the risk of creating some really bad art.

I mean, have you seen “Field of Dreams?” Bleech.

The Yankees set up “The Judge’s Chambers” cheering section for Aaron Judge

New York Yankees
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The Yankees aren’t well-known for going all-in on goofy, fan-friendly fun. While some organizations are happy to jump on new and even silly or ephemeral trends for the yuks of it, the Yankees have tended to keep things rather businesslike when it comes to promotions and things. They’ve always played the long game, assuming — not always unreasonably — that their brand is best defined by the club’s history and greatness and quiet dignity and stuff.

Aaron Judge and his breakout rookie season is changing things. His fast start has caused fans to dress up in judge’s robes and stuff, so the team is having fun with it. They’ve set up a special section called “The Judge’s Chambers,” complete with a jury box vibe:

 

Fans will be selected to sit in the special section, which is in section 104 in right field, right behind where Judge plays, and will be handed foam gavels with “All Rise” written on them. To be selected at the moment it’d help if you wear one of those judicial robes with Judge’s number 99 on the back or his jersey or an English judge-style powdered wig. Going forward, the Yankees will also use the section for groups and charity events and stuff.

Judge is on a 58-homer pace right now. It’s unlikely he’ll keep that up, but he certainly looks like the real deal. And, for the Yankees and their fans, he’s giving them the chance for some real fun.